Read Don't Tempt Me Online

Authors: Julie Ortolon

Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Love Stories, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Contemporary romance, #Uncles, #Galveston Island (Tex.), #award-winning author, #Texas author, #USA award-winning author, #Pirate treasure, #Galveston Island, #Corpus Christi Bay (Tex.)

Don't Tempt Me (6 page)

BOOK: Don't Tempt Me
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"Like I mind having her to myself for a few minutes." He let his sister take the baby from him. Spotting Jackie, he smiled. "You made it."

"I made it." She shrugged.

"Great." Wiping his hands on a dish towel, he came toward her. He looked as fabulous as ever wearing a gray pullover with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows and black jeans. He'd traded his usual gold hoop earring for a dangling silver one. "Did Rory tell you about dinner?"

"Dinner?" Jackie asked.

"We thought we should all get together this evening," Adrian explained. "You know, celebrate your being here, read the letter, go over what to expect tomorrow, unless you have other plans."

"Nope. No plans." She smiled stiffly, wondering why they couldn't have waited until after she read the diaries to get the ball rolling.

Adrian turned back to his sister. "Hey, sis, could you slide the next batch of brownies in the oven for me while I show Jackie to her room?"

"Certainly. Here." Rory tossed a ring with two keys.

He caught them one-handed, then reached for Jackie's duffel bag.

"I've got it," she insisted. "Just lead the way."

Rather than return through the dining room, he took her through a back hall and pointed toward a set of narrow stairs that led downward. "The family apartment is in the basement. Come on down around six so you can visit with everyone before we eat. We invited Bobby and Paige, but haven't heard if they're coming."

When they slipped through a small door into the main hall, she noticed a couple in the music room watching a TV that had been set into an antique armoire. Another couple was coming down the stairs as they started up. Adrian, the congenial innkeeper, greeted both pairs.

"You appear to have a full house," she observed as they reached the landing where the stained-glass windows bathed the area in colored light.

"We've survived our first year at least, and business has really picked up since we built a few bungalows along the jogging trail." He continued up the stairs, explaining the schedule and the amenities. The upper hall had another sitting area, this one cozier than the one downstairs. A vase of fresh flowers sat on a sideboard next to a wicker basket of individually wrapped tea bags. "We put coffee and hot water up here every morning so you don't have to come down for your first cup."

The small luxury brought back vague memories of life before her parents had divorced, when she'd lived in one island resort after another, her father preying on other guests, her mother ordering room service and lounging on white sand beaches while Jackie built sand castles.

Adrian moved toward a bank of tall windows opposite the stairs. Gauzy curtains obscured the view, but she could make out a balcony and the blue and white cove beyond.

"Here we are." Adrian opened a door to the left of the windows. "We call this room the Pearl, since it was Marguerite's. The best room in the house."

Jackie walked to the middle of the large, airy room and let her duffel bag drop to her feet as she took it all in. The soft white walls, gilded furniture, and filtered light from the sitting room in the turret made her feel as if she'd stepped into a cloud. The headboard even had a painting of cupids flying against a gold background.

She turned back to him. "Don't you have something smaller? Because I really don't want to be obligated to quite this extent."

"Ah, I see you're on to me already."

"I usually am."

"True." He came toward her. "I might as well confess my dastardly scheme."

"I'm sure I'll be shocked."

"Actually, you will, since it doesn't involve anything more than your returning the favor. Whenever we get the cruises going, I'd like to be on the first half of the first trip. I'd do the whole thing, but hate to take off for that long."

"I suppose you'll want my best cabin."

"Unless you're short on space." His eyes twinkled, and she saw some suggestive remark coming.

"Don't," she warned. "You're on your best behavior, remember?"

"Darn it." He grinned, completely unrepentant. "But for now, come check this out." He led her through the elegant sitting room in the turret to one of the tall windows, which was actually a door.

Following him onto the balcony, she caught her breath at the view.

"Gorgeous, isn't it?" he said. A change came over him as he looked out to where palm trees guarded the mouth of the cove. Sunlight sparkled off the waters of the bay beyond but something brighter seemed to shimmer around him. "I've often wondered how many times Marguerite stood in this very spot, thinking about Captain Kingsley and wondering when she'd see him again." He glanced at her. "Maybe she's still here, waiting."

Jackie blinked at his shift in mood, this quiet side of him she'd never seen before. "Do you really believe in ghosts?"

A sudden breeze came off the cove, and he turned in that direction, his face in profile against the blue sky. "Let's just say that sometimes, when I stand here, looking out toward the bay, I feel ... something. A sense of expectation mixed with grief and longing. As if the house is waiting."

"Waiting for what?"

A smile turned up the corners of his lips. "For Captain Jack to return, of course."

A shiver raced down her spine. "What about the diaries? You said I could read them."

"We'll hand them over at dinner tonight." He checked his watch and sighed. "Right now I have some catering orders to fill. Please make yourself at home. Feel free to borrow any of the books or magazines lying about, watch TV downstairs, or explore the island. I'll see you at six."

She watched him go, almost wishing he would stay. Impossible as it seemed, Serious Adrian was even harder to resist than Playful Adrian. What on earth did she do about that? Tell him to go back to teasing her?

Shaking her head, she stared across the cove and her thoughts shifted to Marguerite. How would it feel to have to wait like a prisoner in this house, day after day, year after year, for a few stolen moments with a secret lover? Knowing the penalty for getting caught would be brutal and swift. Jack Kingsley must have been one hell of a man for Marguerite to risk the wrath of her violent husband to be with him.

Chapter 5

Adrian looked up as Sadie, his sister's sable and white sheltie, came bounding down the apartment stairs, heralding the arrival of Allison and Scott. The dog raced into the living area where Rory was bottle-feeding Lauren. The baby squealed in delight and tried to wriggle free as Sadie took off to greet Rory's husband, Oliver Chancellor, who sat at the bar that divided the living and dining area from the kitchen. Chance laughed as the dog dashed around the bar to beg for treats.

"You are completely spoiled, you know that?" Adrian told the sheltie as he nudged a piece of toasted French bread onto the floor.

"So, where's our guest of honor?" Allison asked as she reached the bottom of the stairs with Scott right behind her. Unlike his youngest sister, Alli had a petite build, hair as dark as his, and a shy manner that had caused men to overlook her for years ---until Scott Lawrence had checked into the inn last spring.

"I told her six o'clock, so she should be down soon." He nodded to his future brother-in-law. "Hey, Scott. How goes the new book?"

"It goes," Scott sighed, looking like one of the villains in his own books in his all-black attire.

"Hey, Alli. Hey, Scott," Rory called as she gave up trying to feed Lauren and carried the baby to Chance.

Allison shrugged out of the cardigan sweater she wore over a simple blue dress. "It's exciting, don't you think, to have Jackie here? Almost like a family reunion."

"Did she bring the letter?" Scott hung his jacket and Allison's sweater in the closet beneath the stairs. "After all the research I've done, I can't wait to read it. It's the last piece to the puzzle."

"She had it with her when she checked in." Rory went to wash her hands and help in the kitchen.

"Da-da-da-da." Lauren gave her father a slobbery, milky kiss on the cheek. Chance retaliated by lifting her frilly dress and giving her a raspberry on the tummy that sent the baby into peals of laughter.

As his sisters visited, Adrian realized how little non-working time he spent with them these days. The inn hadn't even opened before Rory had moved into Chance's apartment. Chance had started out as their financial advisor and later became a partner, then part of the family when he married Rory. The two of them had built a small house just behind the inn, so they were nearby, but it wasn't the same as having Rory live under the same roof. And now Alli was marrying Scott, and they planned to live in the Bouchard Cottage in town.

The cottage had been built by Henri LeRoche as a way to banish his and Marguerite's daughter, Nicole, claiming she wasn't his daughter at all. Upon his death, Pearl Island and the LeRoche Shipping empire had gone to a nephew. Rather than fight him, Nicole had taken her mother's maiden name, then followed in Marguerite's footsteps to become a star of the stage in New York, London, and Paris, only to die divorced and destitute in the small Galveston cottage.

All of Nicole's descendants had lived in the cottage since, as those "scandalous Bouchards," whispered about by Galveston's "polite society." Adrian and his sisters had grown up in the cottage after their parents' death. But when Pearl Island had been foreclosed on by Chance's bank, they'd jumped on the opportunity to turn the old mansion into a bed-and-breakfast.

The cottage currently belonged to their aunt, Vivian Young, but since she lived in New York, she'd offered it to Scott and Allison. Which meant Adrian hardly saw either of his sisters in the evenings.

They all still worked together, with Rory and Chance handling the business end of things. Allison ran the gift shop, and Adrian handled the cooking. They served breakfast together each morning, and on Saturdays they served lunch on the veranda to the boatload of tourists Bobby and Paige brought for the Haunted House Lunch Run; but they never had time to sit and visit like a family anymore.

"You know, I've been thinking," he said as he set a plate of appetizers on the bar.

"Always a dangerous thing," Rory said.

"No." Adrian smirked playfully at her. "It's dangerous when
you
start thinking."

Chance choked, earning a sharp look from his wife.

"What I was about to say," Adrian continued, "is that we might want to reconsider the housing situation."

"What housing situation?" Rory asked, handing her daughter a piece of bread crust to gnaw on.

"The situation that has me living by myself in this four-bedroom apartment while you married people live in houses that are half the size. Doesn't this seem a little backward?"

"What do you suggest?" Allison asked. "That Scott and I move in here after the wedding and you move back to the cottage?"

"Wait a second." Scott held a hand up. "I like living in the cottage. And no offense, but I don't want to live here. I need privacy and quiet to write, not guests hounding me all day and night."

"Understandable," Adrian agreed. "But it seems ridiculous for me, the only single one left, to have the biggest place."

"Except you're the oldest," Rory said. "And you won't always be single."

"I plan to be for a while, at least. I mean, yeah, I'd like a wife and kids eventually, but not right away. I'm not even seeing anyone." Jackie sprang to mind, but he pushed the thought away. Even if she were interested, she didn't strike him as the kind of woman who was looking to get married ---which would have made her perfect for his current interests if she weren't off limits.

Chance looked at him over the top of Lauren's head. "If Scott and Allison don't want to move, would you be interested in swapping with us?"

Adrian tried not to jump on the offer too fast, since he'd love nothing better than to swap living quarters with Chance and Rory. He'd been hesitant to suggest it, because Chance had built the house behind the inn with his own money. He kept his voice nonchalant as he checked on dinner. "I might be persuaded."

Chance smiled sheepishly at his wife. "I have to admit, I've felt guilty for taking Aurora away from the inn. Part of her reason for buying the house and restoring it in the first place was because she's always dreamed of living here. Yet she's the one who never has, because of me."

"Like I regret marrying you." Rory smiled at him.

"No, but you do regret not getting to live here."

"True." She turned hopeful eyes to Adrian."Would you really consider swapping with us?"

"It is a perfect solution," Adrian said. "You two will be on premise, which will make it easy for you to manage the inn, but I'll still be close enough to walk to work in the morning. That is, if Chance is willing to make me a good offer."

"We'll work something out on the money end," Chance said.

Rory looked at her brother. "Won't you be lonely, though, cut off from the inn?"

"Privacy? Quiet?" He sighed. "It'll be a burden, but I think I'll adjust."

A sound on the stairs drew his attention. He looked up to see Jackie standing on the bottom step ---and did a double take when he noticed what she was wearing. It was a simple, long-sleeved T-shirt with horizontal stripes of red and white tucked into blue slacks. But it fit her more snugly than what she usually wore and had a scooped neck that showed a tantalizing hint of cleavage to a pair of incredible breasts.

BOOK: Don't Tempt Me
3.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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